How much of “Indian history” do we study in CBSE/ICSE schools?

The history that is taught in CBSE and ICSE schools essentially consists of two parts. That of India and the rest of the world. In the name of “Indian” history, what we are taught are 60% Northern history, 25% Western history, 10% Southern history, and just 5% (I’m actually being generous here) Eastern history. The history textbooks in the two central boards have been written from Delhi’s perspective.

We are just told that the Mauryan Empire was overthrown by Pushyamitra Shunga who established the Shunga Empire. Then the timeline shifts to the Kushan_Empire. The age of Satavahana dynasty, who ruled the Deccan is largely ignored. I did not read anything about Satavahanas in my history textbook at school. The first time that I read about the Satavahanas was when I read the Amar Chitra Katha comic on Gautamiputra Satakarni in my school library. My “textbook” had no content on the Satavahanas.

After the Kushanas, we then study the Gupta Empire, which is termed as the golden age of Indian history. But just one chapter on the golden age. That’s it. Even here, I feel that the historians have failed. There should have been more content on the Gupta empire too for it was one of India’s greatest empires of all time. What we study in this chapter is about Samudragupta, Chandragupta-II and one line about the greats like Kalidasa who existed during this period.

After the fall of Gupta Empire, we then study about Harsha of Kannauj, which is again a jump of about a century. The conflicts between the Kadamba dynasty and the Pallava dynasty are ignored. We don’t read that the Chalukya dynasty was actually the successor to the Kadambas. All we read about the Chalukyas is when the greatest Chalukya, Pulakeshin II defeats Harsha and when he in turn is defeated by the equally great Pallava Narasimhavarman I. Two lines about the Chalukyas and a few lines here and there about the Pallavas.

The only thing that I read about the Rashtrakuta Empire in the school textbook was that it was one of the three powers involved in the Tripartite Struggle for Kannauj. The other two being Pala Empire and the Gurjara-Pratihara. Amoghavarsha is nicknamed as Ashoka of the South in some textbooks. Why should he be compared to Ashoka? I don’t get the reason behind this nickname. Amoghavarsha or Nrupatunga was a great ruler in his own right. He shouldn’t be compared to Ashoka. Can we call Ashoka as Amoghavarsha of the North? Not required. Both were great rulers and there is no need of such nicknames. Even here, Amoghavarsha’s epic work Kavirajamarga, the first recorded book in Kannada is ignored.

If someone reads only our history textbooks, then they’ll get the impression that the state of Maharashtra had absolutely no history before the age of Maratha Empire. We don’t study about Satavahanas as I mentioned earlier. Neither do we study about the Seuna (Yadava) dynasty, which was actually the first dynasty to patronise Marathi and it existed from 850 to 1334. Even 1334 was a good 300 years before Shivaji Maharaj was born! The only time the Yadavas of Devagiri, Hoysala Empire, and the Kakatiya dynasty are mentioned in our textbooks is when they were ransacked by Malik Kafur, again a general of the Delhi Sultanate!

The great Vijayanagara Empire was founded in 1336 and went on to be one of the most glorious empires of India and it ruled till 1646, a good 3 centuries. I’ll tell you what I read about the Vijayanagara Empire in my history textbook. The Vijayanagara Empire was founded by two brothers Harihara I and Bukka Raya I on the banks of Tungabhadra. Its greatest ruler was Krishnadevaraya who was the most powerful emperor in the Indian subcontinent in 1526, when First Battle of Panipat was fought between Babur and Ibrahim Lodi. The empire was destroyed in Battle of Talikota and today the ruins of Hampi, Karnataka are the place where this empire existed.

That’s it! One paragraph! Even in this paragraph, notice how two lines still describe the events happening in Delhi! What is the need to discuss about Delhi Sultanate and Mughals while talking about Vijayanagara Empire? The whole history in our textbooks is written from Delhi’s point of view. This is the ultimate proof. I remember this particular paragraph very clearly because I had asked my dad if this was all about the Vijayanagara Empire since he had told me the stories of the empire since I was a child.

Then we learn about the Mughal Empire wherein one chapter is dedicated to each emperor. One each for Babur, Humayun, Akbar, Jahangir, Shah Jahan, and Aurangzeb. Then we read about the Marathas and when we read about the Marathas, we read only about their conflict with the Mughals, Afghans, their attempts to take over Delhi, and their defeat in the Third Battle of Panipat. We don’t read about their campaign in the South and the East. We don’t read about their battles with the Adil Shahi dynasty or the Kingdom of Mysore or their invasion of Bengal. We only read what our Delhi historians have termed as history of India.

We don’t read about the Eastern history and the empires like Gajapati Kingdom, Ahom kingdom, Kamarupa, and Pala Empire. The only mention about the Palas was during the Tripartite Struggle that I have mentioned above. We read very little about the great and ancient Tamil kingdoms like the Chola dynasty, Pandyan, and the Pallava dynasty. We read very little about the Deccan history. We don’t get to study about Deccan sultanates, Bahmani Sultanate, and as mentioned earlier, we don’t study much about Vijayanagara Empire, Yadavas, Satavahnas, and so on. Then finally, it is all about British Raj and school ends. Students score good marks in their board exams and their parents and teachers are happy. That’s about it. “Indian” history is done and dusted for all the stakeholders.

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Aditya Kulkarni

Business Consultant, MBA from XLRI Jamshedpur, fascinated by history, and love watching movies and TV shows. Quora Top Writer 2017 and 2018.